Merry Christmas, all! I thought as I have a moment between opening presents, and waiting for the ham to finish up, that I would respond to this comment that a lady named Brandy just made yesterday on my ‘Guest Posts’ page; and unless I highlight it here, nobody will see it. I am thinking (and I am not totally sure) that Brandy somehow came across my blog, saw the name ‘Calvinist’ and then imported all of the usual connotations into what that usually stands for as she offered her critique of Calvinism in her comment (that I am sharing and responding to here).
So let’s hear from Brandy, and how she critiques classical Calvinism based upon her perception of it (her critique does not actually apply to Evangelical Calvinism, which I already alerted her to in that thread). I will respond after her comment.
At this time of the year as I find my thoughts filled with the joy that is the birth of Christ, I can’t help but sometimes wonder how a Calvinist can truly say that Christmas is merry with sincerity? Could one really find delight in the fulfillment of the Calvinists’ God’s detailed plan to bring every person into this world with no ability to accept Him, with no ability to do anything but evil, and then this same God torments forever and ever these depraved people who have no ability to do anything but what they have done? And for the lucky few to whom He “gives” eternal life, He does this by imposing his will on them through no choice of their own, and grants them eternal life only in exchange for a lifetime of servitude. Is there anything joyful in this horrific plan when it is unmasked from all its intellectually sounding words and creeds? Is this Calvinistic UNESCAPABLE sentence of eternal torture really good tidings for the majority of mankind?
I am so thankful that these Calvinistic characteristics do not represent the nature of our loving God. That I can joyfully adore the God of Christmas who provides a gift of eternal life for all mankind; that I can wonderfully proclaim to every person that the Saviour of the world has come and taken away the sins of the entire world! That God is pleading and long-suffering with each human being that each might believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. That He enables every single person to receive Him, and his only sincere will is that every human being would accept his free gift. This is the wonderful Christmas story, one that truly offers merriment and joy to all mankind as a free gift with no obligations. A gift that every person has the ability to accept and has to do nothing to earn or keep.
I am speaking plainly here about the doctrine of Calvinism, but I truly love those who are Calvinists and count them as Christian friends just as I do anyone who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. I do believe, however, that it is spiritually beneficial to occasionally shine a light on the disturbing philosophy behind Calvinism. When one strips away all of Calvinism’s fancy creeds and theories and restates them in simple terms, we can clearly see its core theology of a God that torments people forever whom he (God) brought into the world with no ability to do anything different than what they have done. And this was the plan he choose (among the infinite plans he could have implemented) simply because it makes him happy to do this. Surely anyone whose God-given conscience has not been completely seared must find themselves troubled about how a good and holy God could practice these kind of terrors. These attributes stand in stark contrast to the righteousness and goodness which God represents and asks us to follow. They stand in stark contrast to the good tidings of great joy which is the Christmas story.
Some of what Brandy communicates is accurate, but much of it is based upon a reductionism and oversimplification of things. To be sure, what she articulates in her comment has nothing to do with what we have called Evangelical Calvinism. We believe that Jesus has genuinely died for all of humanity, and then the offer of salvation has genuinely and efficaciously been offered to all who will; but we believe this only because all of this effectual salvific reality has been realized in the vicarious and particular humanity of Christ for us. So with that cleared up, we can engage a little further with Brandy’s critique of classical Calvinists.
One thing I take issue with is Brandy’s apparent disdain toward creeds and intellectualism; the kind that she associates with Calvinism. I am not totally sure what she is referring to here since she doesn’t flesh her assertion out there, but my guess is that she is referring to something like the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Canons of Dordt, and maybe other confessions of the Reformed faith. As far as the intellectualism that she refers to, that is pretty much a red herring, since all theological positions (even Brandy’s, whatever her’s is) have some pretty sophisticated philosophical concepts standing behind them (the best approaches are able to utilize the grammar offered by certain philosophical systems and essentially gut them and repurpose them in a way that Christian doctrine and reality is given an intelligible apparatus and grammar that allows for intentional worship and service to God). I think really what Brandy is referring to is an experience[s] she has had with certain Calvinists over the years, and the way that these folks, by way of attitude have communicated Calvinist teaching to her; you know the so called cage-stage Calvinists who get a hold of Calvinist doctrine, and understand it just enough to be dangerous. It seems like this is what Brandy is probably referring to.
Then, Brandy is kicking against double predestination hard; the idea that God predestines some to eternal life (the elect), and others to eternal damnation (the reprobate). In a nuts and bolts kind of way I suppose her critique at this point is pretty spot on. But her critique isn’t really a critique of this system at a material level, she seems to be moving too quick, and triumphantly asserts certain things that I know classical Calvinists have a response to; and I am referring to educated classical Calvinists. That said, I would ultimately agree with Brandy, as far as the problem she notes in regard to the deterministic God. That notwithstanding, Brandy’s solution is not laudable! Brandy essentially offers not even the Arminian position, in regard to so called “free will,” she offers, as she left it, not even semi-Pelagianism, but instead she offers full blown Pelagianism; i.e. the idea that human beings are born with an innate capacity to choose eternal life, or not. My guess is that if Brandy was pressed harder she probably would adopt an Arminian position here.
At the end of the day, Brandy did not even come close to critiquing Evangelical Calvinism, but she did try to critique classical Calvinism. It would be interesting to see how classical Calvinists would respond to Brandy; my guess is that they would claim that Brandy has oversimplified things, and then ask her to offer a more material critique of classically conceived Calvinism.